Just last month, Governor Ige signed into law a bill requiring the Dept. of Public Safety to document if prison inmates are parents and how many children they have.
But what happens to the children?
Camp Agape is dedicated to keeping the children of incarcerated parents away from a life of crime, and it’s been growing since it first began 10 years ago.
Camp Agape mentors children of incarcerated parents, who are reportedly 50 percent more likely to be jailed as well. It’s a number that prison outreach officials want to bring down.
Kai Adric of Pearl City now dedicates his time to Camp Agape. But it wasn’t always this way.
“Lifeguarding for City and County of Honolulu,” he said. “I was working for the government, teaching kids how to play sports for the child youth development center. Good life. But I was introduced to a drug called ice.”
Adric says his addiction landed him a 20-year sentence in prison, of which he served five.
While behind bars, he was shown a video of children of prisoners enjoying time in the sun. “I understand we live in Hawaii. It could be your cousins, their kids, they’re all our kids, right? When I saw that, I was so moved and said, ‘I got to do something about this.'”>
Adric now works with Roy Yamamoto, the founder of Camp Agape. “A lot of them can say, ‘it’s not my fault,'” Yamamoto said. “They have the biggest ticket to say it’s my dad’s fault, or my mom’s fault, or my situation. You see so many of them go to prison also as adults.”
Every year, Camp Agape takes in almost 200 kids. Attendance has grown since it first started 10 years ago.
Wendy Tamura joined the camp at that time. “My dad was in and out of prison for many years. Being involved with the prison ministry, I found Camp Agape. I experienced what it was to have other people who knew what it meant to have a parent who wasn’t there.”
Now at 22, Tamura mentors kids who join Camp Agape to fill a void.
“I came here in 2011 ’cause I had a life without my father,” said 11-year-old Dacia Demello. “I sort of grew up knowing about God, but I didn’t know who I was or really where I was. When I came to Camp Agape, I felt welcomed and I felt loved. Every year, I came back.”
“My dad, he been there practically all my life,” said 13-year-old Jaron Nash-Johnson. “He comes out this year and we’re gonna have a lot of fun together.”
“Seeing our youth grow up, I was never raised like that,” Adric said. “I wish somebody told me about this. I would not have gone down the road I did. But, that’s OK. I can help others now.”
Camp Agape has spread across Hawaii, from Oahu to Hawaii Island and Maui, plus on the mainland as well, in Oregon and Arkansas. The non-profit relies on donations to provide free activities and services for the children of incarcerated parents.
To learn more about the camp, click here.